That’s probably a chance-taking headline, considering I’m talking about a petrol-only SUV, but stay with me and I’ll tell you exactly why it’s there.
If you’ve read our initial impressions of the new Honda CR-V, you’ll know that it’s still a favourite of ours, just like the last one was. But what does it really feel like on the road?
How’s it looking?
Overall, it’s a much sharper looking car than the one it replaces, and it’s certainly got enough presence to grab eyeballs. The front end is basically an evolution of the previous generation model, with all the changes adding up to give the CR-V a pretty aggressive stance. From the rear, it’s a dead ringer for the Volvo XC60, but take a glance at it from a slightly offset position and you’ll see that it’s quite an eyeful. Our test car, in that shade of red, looked quite brilliant under the glow of sodium vapour lamps at night! Just like the last car, the shape of the windows gives it that sloping-roof look that seems to be popular these days.
If you’re stepping right out of the old car and into this one, you’re bound to notice that the quality took a bit of a nose dive, but by itself, it’s a pretty nice interior. Taking centre stage on the dash is a small screen used to display the feed from the reverse assist camera; the screen also serves as the display for the music player. You get pretty much everything you expect in a premium SUV, and this was only the base model I was driving. As you go up the trim levels, you get a second screen, which displays navigation information and has Bluetooth connectivity as well.
It’s still a five seater, which might be a bit of a disappointment to some, but rest assured, those five seats are very comfortable and come wrapped in some supple leather. One of the areas Honda has improved on this car is the height of the floor. In the older car, getting something into the boot meant you had to lift it up pretty high, but now the loading lip has been lowered significantly. The rear seats also sit lower in the car, giving the rear-seat passengers better head room.
Goes like stink?
I drove the 2.0-litre model mated to a six-speed manual transmission – of late, some of the better manual transmissions I’ve driven have been from Honda, so it’s no surprise, really, that the one in the CR-V is right up there with the best. The throws are delightfully short and the shift action itself is nice and crisp. What’s more, the shifter positioning is near perfect as well, so, you know, you can go all WRC with it!
In terms of outright acceleration, the CR-V suffers a little because of the low rolling resistance rubber that is wrapped around its 17-inch wheels. That, of course, means that if you want to make a particularly quick getaway, you’ll be met with lots of wheelspin, then an abrupt loss of power when traction control kicks in and finally, you’ll be off once the wheels find enough grip. If you decide, however, that you can do a better job of modulating the power, traction control can be switched off. After I did that, I basically lit up the front wheels in 1st, 2nd and 3rd gears before it finally settled down. Right, then, I’m keeping traction control on.
Despite all of this, the CR-V clocks a 0-100 kph time of 10.02 seconds, pressing on to a top speed of 190 kph, which is about par for the course. You’ll be better off with the 2.4-litre version if you want better outright performance, naturally.
There’s also a new Econ mode you can drive in, which dulls the throttle response a little, but the result is a higher fuel efficiency number; with it on, I managed to get 9 kpl overall. That pretty much went out the window once I got addicted to the way the car sounds above 5000 rpm!
Another area the CR-V improves on is the handling department. Really, you say? On an SUV that already has some impressive on-road manners? Well, yes. A completely new rear suspension setup means that the CR-V feels a lot more planted during directional changes. You can really attack corners in it once you get it out of your mind that you’re driving a rather large vehicle. The only thing that bothers me is that there’s also a new steering system in the mix, which ditches hydraulics in favour of an electric unit. That works wonders for city use, but it feels just a tad too light and lacking in feel for me out on open roads. It also rides a lot better over rough terrain, keeping body movements in check while soaking up bumps at the same time. Quite impressive, I say.
Oh, and one more thing – we suggest you ditch those eco tyres in favour of some stickier rubber, both for the sake of handling and some peace of mind – you won’t be missing that tyre squeal anytime soon.
Okay, so it’s a petrol-only SUV in a country obsessed with diesels, and this might hurt Honda in the sales charts. It still has an ace up its sleeve, however. The CR-V is assembled in India, which means you’re saving a good chunk of money on it initially, fuel efficiency is pretty good if you manage to keep your right foot in check, and it’s such a nice car, all told, that you’ll question whether you really need to cough up more cash for an Accord!
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